By Hair-Is-My-Identity Male
A thing of importance to me, like how a person’s skin being on their body was important, was my hair. Originally it was for aesthetic reasons but later grew into both aesthetic and health reasons. I might’ve been a fat, pimply, goth kid, but one aesthetic potential I had was my hair and it’s length. To me, at the time (and in some ways still) humans have few naturally aesthetic qualities but hair was one. This caused a little stigma outside of church, but nothing significant. Inside church, even at a non-Utah ward, there were pressures for me to “cut it.” “it’s just hair right? It’ll grow back” etc… It made me “miffed” but as I had little desire for the approval of most humans, I did not really care and ultimately paid such comments no disregard. This precluded gaining more friends I think but fortunately my introvert-ism shielded any harmful effects of that. …But I cut my hair to serve a mission.
After my mission, I moved back home, began to grow my hair back, got a job, and started working. The company moved from Florida to Utah and I moved with it. I wanted to attend graduate school and decided to take some pre-requisites part-time. It was affordable for me to take them at BYU so I signed up there, and got accepted. I thought that if I lost the beard, kept my side-burns up and tucked my pony-tail into my shirt, I would be fine. I was quite wrong. When walking in to get my photo ID card, the girl (over half a decade younger than me) gave me what I could only describe as “a look of darkness.” A look where her head was tilted down slightly, her eyes narrowed, and wore a scowl. “Before you get your ID card you need to get a haircut” she said. My heart sank, we stared at each other for a few uncomfortable seconds. My mind was so sure everything would be fine and she would not have seen. “The barber is still open” she said coldly. I don’t remember what I said after that, but she said “if you have an issue, take it up with the honor code office.” ‘Honor?’ I thought, there was no ‘honor’ in that policy. ‘The children here must believe so though,’ I thought. I was desperate. I had already paid for the class, no card meant I couldn’t take the test, which meant no passing class, which meant no pre-requisites done, which meant no graduate school. That was my thought. Fuzzy minded, not knowing what to do, feeling like a cup filled to the brim with some black ichors poured into it, I went to the honor-code office. The receptionist, a young man who looked like he was still in high-school, looked at me with the most condescending look I have ever seen on another human being. My cup was about to overflow. He directed me to the head honor-code agent’s office and I sat in his office. He looked like a hollow and beaten man, but I also found out that he was quite cold. He told me that there was no reason to grant permission for me or my hair and that I “should have” known better in the first place.
My cup overflowed. If there was ever a moment that I would have “dropped the book,” that would’ve been it. I cried, I did not just cry, I cried, whimpered, and so forth. Only two times I felt as if my “spirit was torn from my body,” once when holding an infant in my hands whose parents had just been shot to death, and the other was at that moment. A guy in his mid-twenties, who worked so much and did so much, who used to not flinch with crime-scene photos or snuff films in his Criminology days, a guy who put up with NFD’s (“flashbangs”), was used to gunshots, and volunteered in EMS, was now crying like a baby. Not only for my hair and what it represented, but the circles of Doctrine, Administration, and Culture of the Venn-Diagram I had in my head grew much further apart. When one obtains a higher-knowledge of some-thing, he ought not to revert back to a lower level of living. I believe to do so is sin. I committed myself to not compromise my physical, mental, or spiritual integrity of the things of this world, but at that point I was considering it by getting my haircut.
I got my haircut. The duration and depth of the darkness in my mind and mood was more than it had been as far as I could remember. My employer demanded that to keep my job, I needed to get counseling and I did. I asked one counselor how he would feel if, to get ahead in a particular society, he had to pierce his nose, lips, and get tattoos over his face and body. He said that he would not like that, but if he really wanted to get something from that society might endure it. I told him that is how I felt.
**In the new ministering era, how can we be more cognitively flexible, sensitive, and considerate to people’s individual needs, beliefs, and circumstances? How can we be better at honoring people and loving them in the Savior’s way?